Cheers and tears for inspirational Anna

Published 4 August 2016 (AEDT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 03: Australian Cyclist and Flagbearer Anna Meares addresses the Australian Olympic Team during the Australian Olympic Team Inspire Session at the Olympic Village on August 3, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. © 2016 Getty Images

RIO 2016: An emotional Anna Meares has provided an inspiring launch to Australia's Rio Olympics campaign. 

Speaking to the Australian team at the Olympic Village, Meares called on her fellow Olympians to “make this Olympics great”.

“What lies ahead for us no-one knows, it's unwritten history,” Meares said.

“But what lies ahead of our rivals and competitors is known. A team of men and women brimming with Aussie spirit, a spirit that many in the world envy.

“We're a nation proud of our heritage.

“From our indigenous Australians to those who have immigrated and sought refuge, to those born and raised on Aussie soil. We are all proud to call ourselves Australian.”

The Australian team captain and flagbearer at one stage fought back tears during her passionate address as she recalled the inspiration behind her quest to win a third gold medal in Rio.

“I've been asked so many times why I'm still here, why I still ride, why I still compete,” Meares said.

“The simple answer is, I love the feeling I get on the rare few days once every four years to wear the green and gold.

“My name is Anna Meares, but it's not my name that makes my rivals take notice.

“It is the strength and pride I gain in spirit when I put on my green and gold racing gear. 

“I have lost more races then I have won. I stand before you still striving for more success and still dreaming the same dream I had as a young girl in country Queensland. 

“I could have retired after London, gone out a winner, gone out on top of my sport.

“But Rio offered a chance for me to not just be great, but to be greater again.” 

Meares said that the whole of Australia would be “along for the ride” as the 421-strong Australian team strived for glory in Rio.

“You're about to represent yourself, your family, friends, team, sport and country,” Meares said.

“It sounds like a lot. But the reason we are held in such high esteem as sportsmen and sport women is because we carry that Aussie spirit, that never-give-in attitude and that let’s have a real crack mindset. 

“No-one can find fault or disappointment in anyone who strives to be better in themselves and challenge themselves to do great things.

“In its simplest terms it starts with bringing that competitive Aussie out in all of us and digging deep like Cathy Freeman, Keiren Perkins, Herb Elliott, Thorpey and a great friend of mine, Marjorie Nelson Jackson, did in years gone by. 

“So to all in this team, in my team, in our team, let's make this Olympics great.

“Continue to be you, that's what has got you here. Continue to fight and battle and no matter the outcome I, like your family, friends, team and country, will be proud of you.”

Meares’ inspiring words certainly struck a chord with her Olympic teammates.

Beijing 2008 Olympic Games silver medallist Shane Rose, who is competing in the equestrian (eventing) in Rio, said Meares epitomised the values of the Australian team. 

Rowing pictogram

“It was pretty hard to hold back the tears,” Rose said of Meares’ speech.

“Anna typifies what makes Australians Australians.

“Her driving force, the passion to be Australian and to be as good as we can be, I think she certainly said everything in her speech that makes you want to go out there and perform at your best.”

Beach volleyballer and triple Olympian Louise Bawden said it would be an honour to follow flagbearer Meares into the stadium at the Opening Ceremony.

“Anna is a great role model, she is an inspiration and she’s a true champion,” Bawden said

“We were really honoured to be able to hear her speak today.”

David Taylor

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